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Church to Community: Come on Over and Talk Politics

Fellowship CRC member Ron Rupke (at the mic) welcomes residents to the co-sponsored all-candidates meeting.
Fellowship CRC member Ron Rupke (at the mic) welcomes residents to the co-sponsored all-candidates meeting.

During election seasons in cities and towns across North America church buildings are often employed as polling places, meeting venues, and information distribution centers. Members of Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Brighton, Ont., have created a partnership with the city’s Chamber of Commerce to host all-candidates meetings in their voting jurisdiction. The church sees it an opportunity to live into their vision statement, "Rooted in Christ to impact community through relationships."

Fellowship CRC has sponsored or co-sponsored an all-candidates meeting for the past three election cycles—provincial, municipal, and the current  Canadian federal election. The church provides facilities, a time-keeper, and sound and camera staff to simulcast the debate. Ron Rupke, a member of Fellowship CRC, said, “Questions to the candidates are formulated at a community round table including business people, educators, and a Fellowship CRC representative.” Rupke took on that role for the recent debate and also greeted community members participating in the Oct. 3 event. About 350 residents attended.

“Part of our partnership agreement has one of our members, me this time, welcoming the community and explaining that the event is completely non-partisan and presented to the community as a service to help enable informed voters and good government,” Rupke said.

As co-sponsor, the Brighton-Cramahe Chamber of Commerce booked the candidates, arranged for moderation, and provided publicity. Rupke said the event for the 2018 municipal election attracted more than 600 people with about 200 more watching the online live stream and another 800 downloading the event later.

Five local candidates participated in the most recent all-candidates meeting, representing the major political parties in the election.

Rene Schmidt, a member of Fellowship CRC and one of the organizers of the first provincial election debate, appreciates the church’s participation in civic matters.

“As a large capacity church in a small town, it is natural for us to make these connections, especially for the sake of those who don’t know the Lord.”

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